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By the end of this section, you will be able to:
  • Discuss the biogeochemical cycles of water, carbon, nitrogen, phosphorus, and sulfur
  • Explain how human activities have impacted these cycles and the potential consequences for Earth

Energy flows directionally through ecosystems, entering as sunlight (or inorganic molecules for chemoautotrophs) and leaving as heat during the many transfers between trophic levels. However, the matter that makes up living organisms is conserved and recycled. The six most common elements associated with organic molecules—carbon, nitrogen, hydrogen, oxygen, phosphorus, and sulfur—take a variety of chemical forms and may exist for long periods in the atmosphere, on land, in water, or beneath the Earth’s surface. Geologic processes, such as weathering, erosion, water drainage, and the subduction of the continental plates, all play a role in this recycling of materials. Because geology and chemistry have major roles in the study of this process, the recycling of inorganic matter between living organisms and their environment is called a biogeochemical cycle    .

Water contains hydrogen and oxygen, which is essential to all living processes. The hydrosphere    is the area of the Earth where water movement and storage occurs: as liquid water on the surface and beneath the surface or frozen (rivers, lakes, oceans, groundwater, polar ice caps, and glaciers), and as water vapor in the atmosphere. Carbon is found in all organic macromolecules and is an important constituent of fossil fuels. Nitrogen is a major component of our nucleic acids and proteins and is critical to human agriculture. Phosphorus, a major component of nucleic acid (along with nitrogen), is one of the main ingredients in artificial fertilizers used in agriculture and their associated environmental impacts on our surface water. Sulfur, critical to the 3–D folding of proteins (as in disulfide binding), is released into the atmosphere by the burning of fossil fuels, such as coal.

The cycling of these elements is interconnected. For example, the movement of water is critical for the leaching of nitrogen and phosphate into rivers, lakes, and oceans. Furthermore, the ocean itself is a major reservoir for carbon. Thus, mineral nutrients are cycled, either rapidly or slowly, through the entire biosphere, from one living organism to another, and between the biotic and abiotic world.

Head to this website to learn more about biogeochemical cycles.

The water (hydrologic) cycle

Water is the basis of all living processes. The human body is more than 1/2 water and human cells are more than 70 percent water. Thus, most land animals need a supply of fresh water to survive. However, when examining the stores of water on Earth, 97.5 percent of it is non-potable salt water ( [link] ). Of the remaining water, 99 percent is locked underground as water or as ice. Thus, less than 1 percent of fresh water is easily accessible from lakes and rivers. Many living things, such as plants, animals, and fungi, are dependent on the small amount of fresh surface water supply, a lack of which can have massive effects on ecosystem dynamics. Humans, of course, have developed technologies to increase water availability, such as digging wells to harvest groundwater, storing rainwater, and using desalination to obtain drinkable water from the ocean. Although this pursuit of drinkable water has been ongoing throughout human history, the supply of fresh water is still a major issue in modern times.

Questions & Answers

how the kidney functions as osmoregulatory organ
Sam Reply
That true
what is the major connection for sugars in glycolysis?
Ibrahim Reply
Simple term of science
Palesa Reply
what does it mean
it's means what do u know about biology?
what is immunisation
the action of making a person immune to infections ,for immunisation
what is the biology? what do you know about biology
Phathu Reply
biology is the study of living organisms, divided into many specialized fields that cover their morphology, physiology, anatomy, behavior, origin, and distribution.
The study of all aspects of life. The study of all living organisms (such as animal cells and plant cells) in greater detail (their structure and how they function). It's a very broad science.
what is prokaryotic
Bhaskar Reply
what is pathogens
transistion metals....
Wasik Reply
Why study ecology
Amos Reply
What name is given to group 8metals on a periodic table
what is evolution
Elia Reply
Is the gradual change of something it can be either organisms
which of the following statements about the moss life cycle is false?
Israel Reply
posterior lobe of pitutary contains what?
MR Reply
What if vincristine and colchicibe disrupt mitosis by binding to tubulin
Rohith Reply
A plant in the understory of a forest displays a segmented stem and slender leaves arranged in a whorl. It is probably....
Israel Reply
How did the development of a vascular system contribute to the increase in size of plants?
If a flower lacked a megasporangium and microsporangium, what type of gametes would not form?
Seed plants are.. A. all homosporous B. mostly homosporous with some heterosporous C. mostly heterosporous with some homosporous D. all heterosporous
Besides the seed, what other major structure diminishes a plant's reliance on water for reproduction?
what role did the adaptations of seed and pollen play in the development and expansion of seed plants?
Some cycads are considered endangered species and their trade is severely restricted. Customs officials stop suspected smugglers who claim that the plants in their possession are palm trees, not cycads. How would a botanist distinguish between the two types of plants?
What are the two structures that allow angiosperms to be the dominant form of plant life in most terrestrial ecosystems?
how are carbohydrates,proteins and fats formed from triose phosphate
fonyuy Reply
Why does the actin filament only move in one direction? Describe in great detail.
Lashonda Reply
Two events happen when calcium binds to troponin.
which of the following statements about plant division is false?
Israel Reply
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Source:  OpenStax, Biology. OpenStax CNX. Feb 29, 2016 Download for free at http://cnx.org/content/col11448/1.10
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